Washington Sports Betting Laws
According to Washington’s Criminal Code, it is a Class C Felony to wager on sports via the internet. That’s because RCW 9.46.240 makes it clear that it is illegal to knowingly transmit or receive gambling information over the internet or “any similar means.” If the authorities can prove illegal gambling activity, of which bookmaking is included, per RCW 9.46.213, violators can be liable for a fine of not more than $10,000, a prison stint of up to five years, or even both at the same time.
Washington is not pulling any punches when it comes to its anti-gambling legal language, but it is important to understand that most of these laws and others are aimed at keeping the criminal element out of gambling, which is also the purview of the federal laws that supersede Washington’s state prohibitions. We will discuss the particulars of those federal laws in the next section.
Federal Laws That Impact Washington Sports Betting
Several federal laws impact sports betting – or the lack thereof – in Washington. The Evergreen State, like every state in the country other than Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon, is unable to pass laws regulating a sports betting industry thanks to the 1992 passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). An earlier law, the Federal Wire Act of 1961, makes it illegal to transmit betting information across state lines in an attempt to curtail the involvement of organized crime in sports gambling, further limits the availability of legal options for Washington bettors. Finally, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) goes after the financial institutions that process credit card transactions related to gambling, a move that all but destroyed the domestic market for online gambling sites offering sports betting action.
What Is PASPA?
PASPA is the shorthand name for the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. It is perhaps the most crucial piece of US Congressional legislation when it comes to preventing the expansion of sports betting legalization. PASPA prevents all but four states – Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon – from passing their own legislation to regulate betting on sports. Those four states were exempted from the prohibitions of PASPA because they already had sports gambling laws on the books, though only Nevada had and has a fully legalized sports betting industry.
As a law, PASPA has been one of the more controversial pieces of legislation in the long history of federal gambling prohibitions. Efforts, which we will discuss at greater length below, are already being undertaken by New Jersey and other states to repeal PASPA, opening up sports gaming (and it’s sizeable tax revenues) to every state for legalization.
What Is The Game Act?
The Game Act, or the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act, is a new piece of legislation introduced during the 2017 Congressional Session, and, if approved, could become a historic law in the saga of sports gambling legislation. The Game Act’s primary purpose is to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which the Game Act’s sponsors, led by New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone, view as being in violation of the 10 Amendment. PASPA, in the few of Game Act proponents, treats different states differently in a clear violation of the equal sovereignty doctrine.
No action has been taken on the Game Act as of late 2017, but the discussion draft of the bill is expected to draw supporters from the states and organizations in favor of New Jersey’s Supreme Court case to strike down PASPA. The goal of the American Gaming Association is to have the finalized Game Act on the desk of President Donald Trump by the end of his first term in office.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal In Washington?
Any kind of gambling done over the internet, online sports betting included, is illegal according to Washington state law, and there are few states that are as out-and-out against the practice as is Washington. That being said, there are still plenty of legal Washington sports betting sites that will accept Evergreen State residents as players.
The fact is, the websites we recommend you use, namely Bovada, BetOnline, SportsBetting and 5Dimes, are all based out of foreign countries and therefore US law – to say nothing of Washington law - doesn’t apply to them in the first place. Secondly, it’s hardly possible for Washington authorities to go after every single person in the state who bets on states, especially if they use licensed and regulated sports betting sites like those we recommend.
Mobile Sports Betting Apps For Washington Bettors
Mobile apps available on both Apple’s iOS and the Android operating system make placing a bet at a legal Washington sports betting site as easy as a few taps on your touch screen. These apps are available as free downloads in their respective provider’s app stores. Industry leaders like Bovada, BetOnline, SportsBetting and 5Dimes have crafted some extremely user-friendly apps that replicate the experience of using the desktop version of each site so completely that many users prefer this method placing bets over the “full” version.
However, using an online sportsbook’s mobile app is technically the same according to the law as placing bets online, which, depending on your jurisdiction can be a gray area, legally speaking, or illegal. Fortunately, these websites are based outside the US and aren’t subject to federal or Washington state laws.
What Is The Legal Age To Gambling In Washington?
Washington has an interesting approach to minimum legal gambling ages in that the state’s tribal casinos allow patrons as young as 18 to bet, while other betting establishments can require customers to be 21 before gambling. Nevertheless, whatever the age stipulated by the casino or betting venue of your choice, once you are cleared to place bets you will find no shortage of options to do so. Washington’s casinos, poker rooms and slots parlors offer a combined total of more than 33,000 slot machines and nearly 1,200 table games ranging from poker to blackjack to baccarat and everything in between. Sports betting, however, is off the table.
Betting On Horse Racing In Washington
Washington doesn’t have the as well-developed a horse racing segment as some other states with an otherwise thriving gambling industry, with only two tracks – Auburn’s Emerald Downs and Sun Downs – calling the Evergreen State home. Live racing is only available at those two tracks, while off-track betting facilities are sprinkled throughout 12 authorized gambling facilities throughout the state. The Washington Horse Racing Commission oversees the Evergreen State’s race tracks and horse racing betting generally, and the Commission’s website actually lists these locations for the reference of those interested in pari-mutuel betting on the ponies.
The Status Of Daily Fantasy Sports In Washington
As permissive as some of Washington’s other social gaming laws may be, one area the Evergreen State cracks down hard on is daily fantasy sports (DFS). In fact, Washington is the only state in nation (even among states that nominally prohibit DFS) that has actually charged and prosecuted a fantasy sports operator. In a 2011 statement, the Washington State Gambling Commission said in no uncertain terms that any DFS company operating in the state or any company providing services to Washingtonians would be held as illegal according to state law.
The statement came after the 2011 conviction of David Watkins, who owned and operated a NASCAR fantasy sports company called Fantasy Thunder. The case against Watkins was successful because state law specifically bans most games of chance, and even games of skill for monetary reward. A bill to legalize DFS in Washington was put forward during the 2015 legislative session, but it wasn’t passed, despite interest from the Gaming Commission.
Washington Sports Betting FAQs
Are online sportsbooks safe to use if you live in Washington?
Washington’s legal statutes are explicit in their prohibition of online gambling, meaning there is very little wiggle room to work with if you want to use an online sportsbook, including the legal Washington sports betting sites we recommend. If you decide the risk is worth it, you’ll need to be as safe as you can when selecting your web-based sports betting service, which is why we suggest you stick to licensed offshore gambling websites like Bovadea, SportsBetting, BetOnline and 5Dimes, as these website are tightly regulated in their own home countries overseas.
You can be assured of secure money transfers when it comes time to make deposits and collect payouts, but do be aware that technically any online gambling activity, even on legal websites based outside the US, is prohibited by law in Washington.
Has any been arrested for sports betting in Washington?
Nobody has ever been arrested specifically for sports betting in Washington, but that doesn’t mean the law is looking the other way. Case in point: as we discussed above in the daily fantasy sports section, Washington is the only state in the Union to have actually arrested, charged, prosecuted and convicted someone for violating the state’s prohibition on daily fantasy as a “game of chance” for a monetary reward. Though in that case the conviction was made against the individual operating a DFS website and not the users of it, the case proves that the Evergreen State is not messing around when it comes to enforcing its gaming laws.
That being said, using legal Washington sports betting sites based outside the US probably does decrease the likelihood of running afoul of local or federal law just by virtue of these websites being regulated and licensed in foreign countries not subject to US law in the first place. Nevertheless, the law says what it says, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the risk to be the first person ever prosecuted for betting on sports.
What should I do if my bank didn't process my credit or debit card deposit?
It’s completely normal for even a legal Washington sports betting site to be unable to process your credit or debit card deposit. Sadly, it’s all too common thanks to the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which went after financial institutions processing gambling-related transactions over the internet.
The point is, you shouldn’t worry about being in violation of the law just because the betting website you’re using won’t accept your deposit. The good news is that offshore sports betting industry leaders like Bovada will accept VISA cards from American users, and BetOnline will even take American Express deposits.
What is the best way to fund your sports betting account?
If you don’t have a VISA or American Express card or you aren’t a user of a website that will take whatever card you have, there are still some foolproof methods of funding your sports betting account. The most reliable options are generally going to be person-to-person (P2P) transfers from your bank account directly to an operator the good old fashioned check-in-the-mail method, but those can take some time to go through.
When time is of the essence like it is in the world of sports betting, having to wait a little longer to place your wagers might not be the best choice or you. That’s why, Bitcoin might just be the best of all worlds. The so-called “cryptocurrency” isn’t tied to any real-world legal tender, it exists completely outside the jurisdiction of any financial institutions and, best of all, transfers are as instantaneous as they are completely reliable. Check with your betting website for the particular rules and procedures you’ll need to follow before making any final decision as to what method you’ll use to fund your account.
Do Online Sports Betting Sites Have Odds On Football?
Whether you’re a fan of the Seattle Mariners, the Seattle Seahawks or Seattle Sounders FC, you can be assured that all the best legal Washington sports betting sites are going to offer odds the next time your team steps on the field.
Washington’s pro sports teams have been a bit of a mixed bag of late, with the Mariners holding a losing record in 27 of the last 40 seasons after falling on some hard times since burning through several managers in the past four years. The Seahawks are still riding high after their win at Super Bowl XLVIII and their appearance the next year at Super Bowl XLIX, when they narrowly lost to the vaunted New England Patriots. The Seattle Sounders FC has been on a tear in the world of pro soccer lately, becoming the first MLS expansion team to win the MLS Cup in 2016.
The Evergreen State has its fair share of successful collegiate sports programs as well, with the Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s basketball team being consistently ranked as one of the top teams in the Pac-12 and almost a guaranteed March Madness participant. The Washington State Huskies won the Pac-12 football title in 2016, while the school’s women’s basketball program has made it deep into March Madness the past several years.
What is live betting?
Live betting, otherwise known as “in-play” betting, is a relatively new wagering option that most of the premier offshore web-based sportsbooks offer to users. Essentially, live betting is a technology-driven system that allows players to bet throughout an ongoing sporting event. As opposed to traditional online betting methods, where odds are fixed by the bookmaker prior to the start of a particular event, clicking the live betting option will enable users to take advantage of constantly changing odds as on-field conditions change.
This creates a much more exciting, involved style of gambling that modern bettors are taking to in droves, and that’s only bolstered by the ready availability of free betting apps and ubiquitous streaming internet services from the best legal Washington sports betting sites.
Do legal Washington online sportsbooks have live betting?
If you’ve been keeping up with all the new tech developments in the mobile and internet-based sports betting industry, you’ll no doubt be aware that live betting is an option at all the top websites like Bovada and BetOnline. In fact, those two offshore sports betting site are the best on the market right now when it comes to live betting.
This gives players who have a knack for reading the ebb and flow of action in a game the ability to take advantage of a changing trendline in the odds that could, with some luck, result in a huge payout. Legal Washington sports betting sites like those also offer prop bets throughout a contest, which make this style of betting even more like a skill-based game as it rewards savvy players who know their stuff almost as good as the sportsbook’s algorithms!
Can I have more than one online sportsbook account?
Starting more than one online sportsbook account it not only possible, legal and easy, it’s practically speaking the only way to ensure any reasonable chance of long-term profitability for your sports betting endeavors. Unless you’re just an occasional bettor who wants to cash in on a particularly prominent sporting event, it behooves the smart gambler to keep multiple sportsbook accounts going.
There are several reasons for this: first, you can take advantage of different odds offered by different sportsbooks on the same event, or even pick different winners for the same contest, which could be a nice security measure. Next, different sportsbooks are going to have different promotions like sign-up bonuses and winnings multipliers, so you can easily add to your bankroll just by collecting what amounts to free money to bet with by signing up at several different legal Washington sports betting sites. Finally, if you get really good at picking the winner, chances are the bookie (whether “real” or of the digital variety) is going to start offering you different odds from what other bettors get for the same contest. By having more than one account, you can avoid lockout and other impediments to earning money on your favorite teams.
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